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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fitness: The Common Thread

New Brighton Public Safety Special Olympics Torch Run
When I arrived at the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT), I began to look for areas where we might be able to reduce or prevent work-related injuries for our public safety responders. This is a subject I am very passionate about—not only because it is part of my job, but because early in my career I suffered a serious injury myself. (That’s a story for another time.)

The journey has led me to many discussions with chiefs, commanders, training officers, and medical staff on how our responders become injured. We look at the statistics and ask questions like: What were they doing when they got injured? How did it happen? What can be done to prevent or reduce the chances of it happening again?  It wasn’t long before a common thread emerged in all of these discussionsWhether talking about back injuries related to patient handling, on-the-job slips and falls, or training injuries, at some point our group members pushed back from the table and said, “Well, the best thing we can do is promote fitness,” or “It’s really all about fitness.”  This sentiment has been repeated over and over again. 

Woodbury's Functional Workout: "The Hoseline"
Well, it’s not all about fitness,  but fitness and wellness are certainly major factors. Fit responders use fewer sick days, recover from accidents more quickly, appear to have less severe injuries, and possibly have fewer accidents.

Last summer, LMCIT partnered with St. Mary’s University on a capstone project for their students in public safety administration to research successful fitness and wellness programs. Their research concluded that successful programs have involvement at all levels of the organization—but they do not all look alike.

Armed with that information, we started looking for EMS, fire and police departments that have successful fitness programs. We found groups of volunteer firefighters doing aerobics two nights a week and another doing yoga as a group in their stations. We saw police officers working out and running in community races as a group. One department even e-mails a weekly “functional workout” to their members to do on their own time.

New Brighton Police & Fire Twin Cities Marathon Finishers
When it comes to fitness, one common element that has emerged is that of culture.  Many of the departments with successful fitness programs have made fitness and wellness an integral part of the culture of that department. As one responder said: “It is just what we do.” 
Do you know of a successful fitness program? Does your department have one? Please contact me at 651.281.1238 or and let me know. We are looking for more examples of what you are all doing to keep fit and stay safe on the job, since:

Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time…16 life safety initiatives.

In the meantime, keep safe and stay fit.   

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